Magic Spell (Part 2)

As I wrote in my last blog, it seemed every time I went fishing I had a cracking result. This, coupled by the fact we were into the last week of the river season, meant I was dashing to the river bank at every opportunity, usually straight after work.

For this particular trip I thought I must be mad. It was throwing it down, but I put my head down and ploughed through the fields in my waterproofs and wellies. My target would hopefully be roach, and I hoped they liked mashed bread, as I’d got a bucket full of the stuff!

The river looked in great trim, but it was raining so heavily I expected these perfect conditions to last no more than a couple of hours. I primed my usual swim with mashed bread, plus a new area I wanted to try. An hour later, I’d managed just the one roach, probably not quite a pound in size. I noticed it had blackspot, as had a few others I’d caught recently

I moved to my new area, not knowing what to expect. After several trots through, the float slid away as something snaffled my bread hook bait. My rod pulsed to the rhythm of a big roach ‘jagging’ away in the flow, hoping to slip the hook. And slip the hook it did, along with the next fish. I was ticking inside, thinking I’d messed my chance up, when I was fortunate enough to strike into what felt like another big redfin. This time my size 14 hook held firm, and I admired a roach that was sure to go over a pound and a half. I placed it into my net and fished on.

The next couple of trots also produced classic bites, both resulted with me striking into solid resistance. They were landed after nervy tussles in the increasing speed of the flow. One was another lump of a roach, close to 2lbs, plus a smaller pound plus sample.

The roach seemed to be queuing up to be caught, but my luck ran out when my hook pulled out of another good fish. Not surprisingly, the bites dried up after that and I trudged back home. Soaked through, frustrated, but happy.

Straight after work the next day, I was back in the same peg. It was a lovely,mild late afternoon, and the river looked good. I half expected it to be too coloured after the previous days rain, but the colour was perfect, though the flow was a bit on the quick side for light hook links and big roach. After feeding some mash into the swim, I started to trundle my bread through the swim.

After an hour, I’d had nothing at all. I let the next trot go a bit further downstream, where the float slid away. After hitting a good fish I realised that this was no roach. There was nothing I could do to move the fish so I walked down to it, where I finally netted a 4lb+ chub. A muscular torpedo of a fish. It even straitened my hook, I don’t know how I landed it to be honest.

Another quiet spell followed, before eventually I had my second bite and I hit into what was obviously a good roach. The next trot followed the same pattern. They were an ounce either side of a pound and a half. Brilliant fish for my locality.

What had switched the roach on. My constant trickling of mashed bread into the swim, the fading light, or both? Whatever the reason, a dead swim now seemed full of good roach.

My next fish was again a roach, I could tell by the fight. This time though I was struggling to gain any line. It was just a stalemate with the fish using it’s size and the flow to it’s advantage. Thoughts were flashing through my head. It was obviously a very good fish, so I decided to walk downstream to make landing it easier. Just when I thought I was going to win the tussle, disaster struck and the hook pinged out. I was gutted. I know you can’t tell for sure, but I know it was a a roach and it felt a lot better than anything else I’d hooked in the swim. Crestfallen, I went home with an empty feeling in my stomach.

The next day, at work, all I could think about was the lost fish. It must have been a ‘2’ that had slipped through my fingers so I had to return straight away, to try and right a wrong. And anyway, I still had some bread to use up!

Once again, it was a lovely evening and the river was a perfect colour. This time the flow seemed to have slowed a little, in fact the conditions were as good as it gets for big roach fishing. I went through my usual routine of feeding mashed bread 30 minutes before my first cast. I was into fish straight away this time, though not the good fish, but mint roach between 6 and 12oz. At least the future roach fishing looked in good shape with different year classes present. I returned all these roach 30 yards upstream, just so I didn’t unsettle the others in the swim.

On my next trot the float bobbed, bobbed again and then jabbed out of sight, only this time it wasn’t the expected scrappy 10oz fish, but something far more substantial. I eased the fish into netting range, where I could see what looked like a very big roach. If I’d lost the fish then I’d have sworn it had to be over 2.8. I managed to land this one though, everything held and I was looking into my net at a very lean, long old roach. It’d obviously been a lot heavier in it’s prime, but it’s best days were now behind it and I’d had the pleasure of seeing one of natures survivors. It was so lean I had no idea what it would weigh, but I soon found out. It’s weight was 2lb 1oz, another roach from my local river over the ‘magical’ mark. I placed this one into my keep net and tried to catch a few more.

As if a switch had been flicked, I now connected with a roach over a pound on most trots, with the odd 1.8+ specimen to get my pulse quickening.

I trotted until I ran out of mashed bread and could no longer see my float in the failing light. I’d already decided to end my local roach fishing on a high, so there was to be no more straight after work sessions. I think my girlfriend must have thought I’d left home as I was never in for more than 30 minutes each afternoon!

What fishing I’d had the pleasure of having though. Long may it continue, and I hope next season is just as enjoyable. I had one last look at my silver and red prizes, then watched them swim back to their home, hopefully for a 3 month rest.

A Magic Spell! (Part 1)

As we hurtled towards the end of the river open season, the days were starting to draw out which meant I could grab the odd hour or two on my local rivers after work. A good flush of rain, while I was working, saw me grabbing my trotting gear and a loaf of bread as soon as I’d finished. After rushing to the river, I was pleased to see some colour in it. A far cry from recent months where it had been painfully low, clear and almost stale.

I set up a simple stick float rig, with the bulk shot at two thirds depth, and a single dropper below that. A thumbnail sized piece of flake was squeezed on to the shank of the hook, and I cast this towards the far side foliage.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, maybe a chub or two. I just wanted a few bites to keep me active. After a few incident free trots, I flicked the rig right next to the reeds for my next run through. Blow me, the float  buried straight away and I struck into what felt like a roach. This was soon confirmed as I quickly landed a fish of probably 2 or 3 ounces over a pound. It was a real battered, jumble scaled survivor, but this fish had made my day.

I thought quietly to myself that roach don’t usually swim around on their own, so I tried for another with renewed enthusiasm. Again, I went a couple of trots without a bite, until my next cast was perfect, just shaving the reeds. This puts the flake in a slightly deeper, slower flowing bit of the river. This must have been where the roach were sitting because the float went under like a shot. A strike met heavier resistance this time, and I quickly saw I was attached to a better roach. A nervy battle commenced in the pacy flow, until I walked downstream of the fish and used the current to my advantage. This saw me quickly get the upper hand and I triumphantly landed an absolute fatty of a roach. It was almost crucian shaped, and very fat. I wasn’t shocked when the scales went to 2lbs exactly, but I wondered if it was a beast of a roach that would grow very big, or whether it had something wrong with it. It seemed fine, and was almost scale perfect, a fish I’d not seen before.

I was looking forward to catching a few more redfins as it looked like I’d found their hiding place, but disaster struck. I put my next cast in the reeds and lost my float. I went into my bag for another and realised I’d left all my floats at home. What a pudding! The light was starting to fade fast and I knew I didn’t have time to get another then start again. I called it a day, though I was bursting to get back.

I was off work the next day, so I sauntered down to the river to hopefully do battle with the redfins, but was stopped in my tracks. The water was a chocolate brown colour with loads of rubbish coming down. It looked hopeless for roach, but I didn’t want to waste my day off. I reckoned some barbel might feed, especially as the temperatures were into double figures. I checked the EA river levels website and the Trent seemed like it was ok. I returned home, threw my barbel gear into the car, and headed to some decent swims that usually produce when the river is up a bit.

When I arrived, it seemed a few other anglers had thought the same as me as it was fairly busy. I was surprised to see them throwing their baits well out into the strong flow, then struggling with debris coming down, sweeping their baits out of place. I set up a very big feeder on one rod and just lowered it off my rod tip, in to around 6ft of slightly slower water. The feeder was packed solid with strong smelling goodies that should slowly leak out over 30 minutes or so. About 5 yards downstream of this rod, I placed a running lead rig with a couple of 18mm boilies on the hook link. Again, this was just lowered off the rod tip. Then I just sat back to wait.

A couple of taps on the downstream rod tip grabbed my attention, then the rod lunged round. I lifted the rod up into nothing, and reeled in to find my coated braid hook link snapped. I’d put no pressure on whatever fish it was, so assumed that my line must have been around a razor sharp snag. Thinking I’d missed my chance, I still tackled up again, but this time used a strong fluorocarbon hook link. A few minutes later the same rod tip twitched, twitched again, and I was just picking it up when it slammed round. I lifted into a heavy weight, but straight away I could feel rubbing on a snag. The rubbing sensation became so bad I was expecting a breakage at any moment, so I rushed downstream to alter the angle of the pull. This did the trick and I was now in direct contact with a solid weight. It plodded around in the flow, until I gained the upper hand and eased it over the net rim. At this point the fish just avoided being netted, and the battle lasted a few minutes more as it went on a few powerful runs. Eventually it tired and I made no mistake with my second landing attempt.

As I rested it in the net, it looked a good double, but when I lifted the net onto the mat, it felt heavier than I expected. The fish was in great condition, big and strong, almost barrel shaped. 

The scales gave a reading of 13lbs 6oz, justifying my change of venue.

I checked my line for damage because of the grating sensation, but surprinsingly it was still perfect. I expected a few more fish after the action packed start to the session, but strangely I never had a good bite. I had the odd twang and bang on the rod tips, though I suspected these might be from chub.  I still went home more than pleased. It’s not every week you land a 4lb+ perch, 2lb roach and a 13lb+ barbel. How long would my luck last?

Returning to same peg two days later, I was shocked to see how much the river had risen. I put a bank stick at the exact level of the water and an hour later noticed it was still rising.

I fished the same tactics, but nothing happened. As darkness fell, I decided to put a big lobworm on the upstream rod. I just thought I’d try a different floodwater hook bait. The change worked and soon the bait runner purred as line was taken against the clutch. I lifted into a decent fish and after a good scrap expected to see a barbel. I was surprised to see a chub in the beam of my head torch. It felt a weighty one too.

I landed it with no problems and wondered what it would go on the scales. It was a very deep, solid chub, in great winter condition. It looked a good 6 pounds plus, as I laid it on the mat.

I was proved right about it being over 6lbs but only by an ounce! I was a tad disappointed to be honest, I thought it was bigger. That’s probably because I don’t fish for big chub much, if at all in recent times. I’m out of practice with my guesstimates.

However, on the plus side it seems my luck was in again. Would the good run keep going? Not for the rest of this night it wouldn’t, as my worms attracted a succession of bream, most being over 5lbs, which gave a decent account of themselves in the strong flow.

Because I was up early for work the next day, I didn’t stay too late and was soon heading for home. It had been another good trip, even if I didn’t land my target species.

The next few days saw a lot more rain fall, putting the rivers out of action for a while. I was chomping at the bit to get back on the bank, as the river season was coming to a close very quickly. I gambled on my roach river being fishable on a lovely, still, Sunday morning. I was to be rewarded for my gamble. The river was still up on it’s normal level, with a perfect tinge of colour still in it. Surely I would catch some roach, that’s if they were still in the swim from before.

I took my time, pre baiting the swim with good helpings of mashed bread while I fished other swims on the stretch. I managed a couple of modest chub, to perhaps 3lbs or slightly more. This gave me hope that any resident roach would also be on the feed. I soon had my answer. From the same swim that I’d fished before, I landed a string of cracking redfins on trotted bread flake. They were absolute pearlers, in pristine condition. None managed to make the 2lbs barrier, but the best were only between 1 and 3 ounces short. You can’t turn your nose up at such specimens, especially in these predator infested days.

I placed a few on the mat for a photo and marvelled at their pigeon chests. When I was growing up fishing this river, the older anglers always commented on these chests that appeared in the winter months, it seemed the gene pool was still strong.

Incidentally, I take photos of both sides of any of the big roach these days to help with future identification. It was only when I got home, I realised one of the fish, that weighed 1.14.5 (to be exact!) was almost certainly the same fish I caught at 2lbs the last time I was in this peg. You can probably tell by the photos that it’s nowhere near as fat as before, yet I doubt this is down to early spawning. I suppose it’s just some natural fluctuation, though it looks far better proportioned now.

I had to work for a while after these captures, though my mate Martin carried on fishing the swim for a few short sessions, catching a few more lovely big roach. I decided for the last week of the season I’d fish another area. I knew it held some good roach, I just hoped the classic roach conditions would hold.

 

 

 

Commercial Perch

Bob Roberts got in touch with me and some other anglers to tell us about some big perch being caught from a ‘local’ lake. He wondered if we’d be up for a bit of a social on the place and to hopefully catch a big perch or more. To be honest, I was happy just to turn up for the social, but when he told us that a recent match had produced 12 perch in excess of 2lb 14oz, my attention was well and truly gained. He told us he’d reveal the location closer to the date, but it didn’t stop most of us from having a guess or 3, all wrong I hasten to add! As usual, some anglers had to drop out for various reasons, but on the day 6 hardy anglers met up on a cold, dark February morning.

Believe it or not, when the venue was revealed, it was somewhere I’d walked past many times without a thought of what lurked under the surface. A bonus was that the generous  owner had let us have the place exclusively to ourselves for the day, with free hot beverages thrown in! Any fish caught would be a bonus. When we walked around the lake prior to fishing, it looked absolutely spot on for perch and it wasn’t hard to imagine the places where they’d probably be lurking. In fact there were too many features and it was a case of trying to work out where a big perch would most want to be.

We chose numbers for the order of picking pegs, and it was just my luck that I had the last pick. Never mind I thought, but luckily after everyone else had chosen their peg, I was left with loads of water that was free, and it was the place I fancied most. The reed fringed margins looked a great starting point, but I thought any small fish were more likely to be in deeper water in the cold. And lets be honest, these perch grow big by eating smaller fish, so I wanted an ambush point in deeper water. I chose to put my baits in hopefully the perfect area. Straight ahead was a 10 yard gap between 2 long, thin islands. I could just see (in my mind anyway!) big perch sat on the points of these islands, waiting for some unsuspecting small fish to swim straight into their trap. Surely I couldn’t fail!

I made myself comfortable and used 2 rods, both with link legered lobworms on the hook. These were cast to both points on each island. I also fired a few broken lobworms and casters, my favourite big perch baits, over the top.

For bite indication, I used alarms with very light bobbins on a long drop. That would allow me to keep an eye on the water for any action, plus I could relax and not miss any bites. One hour into the session though, all I’d had was a few twitches and plucks, where’s everyone else was catching. Only the odd modest perch was landed, up to around 2lbs, but some cracking carp were bending everyones rods to the limit.

In the end, my craning neck got the better of me and I switched the right hand rod to float fished casters, occasionally using a worm segment. I thought I still had a chance of a perch on that rod, with any small fish activity possibly bringing the big perch into the swim.

The change finally brought me some action, from a few small roach and a couple of carp. They at least warmed me through, plus I finally caught a perch of around a pound. Things were looking up. Eventually the lobworm rod received a screaming take, but I could tell from the odd powerful run that it was probably a carp. I was right, but still, at least the area was producing now.

Nothing much happened until well into the afternoon. I was just having a coffee from my flask when the sounding alarm grabbed my attention. The bobbin was quickly sailing to the rod butt, so I instinctively grabbed the rod and swept it back. I connected with a solid fish, forcing me to drop my coffee. I slowly eased it towards me and I was a certain it was a big perch. It was heavy, shaking it’s head, but it hadn’t gone on any powerful runs like the carp do. I’d dropped to a 0.15mm fluorocarbon hook link, so I couldn’t bully it too much. I eased the fish to the surface where my suspicions were confirmed. It was a perch and it looked huge! Luckily, the lake owner had insisted we use his landing net heads, and though smaller what I’d normally use, its manoeuvrability enabled me to scoop the fish straight in, before it could make a lunge for the reeds. It only just fitted in as well!

My tirade of swear words followed by the word perch alerted everyone to what I’d caught and they all came walking round to have a look. I placed a sling onto my scales and carefully zeroed them. The Reuben’s gave a reading of 4lbs 1oz, slightly less than I thought, but a magnificent fish from a South Yorkshire pond. After many photos from all and sundry, I put her back to grow bigger still, as she seemed a young fit perch in perfect condition.

I did eventually manage to carry on fishing, but it was mainly a social for me after that perch. I did manage some lovely looking carp on my lobworm rod, and Bob also managed a 3lb perch on his dropshot outfit.

All too soon it was time for us to say our goodbyes and head off home to wherever we came from, but not before we’d all chatted until it was pitch black. It had been a great day. A lake all to ourselves, some nice fish caught, but more importantly it was a day spent with friends who were great company. Roll on the follow up event next winter!

Down The Drain

Every now and then, Martin and I like to spend a day pleasure fishing ( Although all days fishing are a pleasure! ) where we almost treat it like a match. Obviously, the venue has to have a good head of fish, preferably roach, where we can get a lot of bites. This makes a difference to our usual fishing trips for larger fish, where sometimes one bite in a day can be a result. For this particular trip, we chose a Lincolnshire drain.

A plethora of baits and rods were unfurled at the start. It was a new venue to us so we wanted most bases covering. We started by trotting. Martin used a waggler where’s I used a top and bottom float. The cold wind made things tricky, but I soon started to catch some nice fish on my bread flake hook baits. The first fish was a rudd, followed by a roach, then a roach x rudd hybrid. There seemed to be a lot of fish in my peg, but poor Martin was suffering some bad luck. A cormorant surfaced in his peg just after starting, then as he tried to get things going again, a few pike started chasing fish around his swim!

I then started to struggle. The flow stopped, then started flowing the other way before stopping again. Then the water level started rising, by around 18 inches in total. To keep bites coming I was now fishing a small feeder but still using bread on the hook. it was fun watching the quiver tip rattle and pluck, before getting a bite to strike at.

Martin also switched to the feeder and caught his first fish, which looked like a cormorant had tried to grab it. We reckoned it was a decent silver bream of well over a pound.

I started to get a decent run of fish going. They were nearly all good roach, the best weighing 1lb 6oz, with the odd roach x rudd hybrid of well over a pound. It was lovely fishing but I had to really concentrate to hit the bites. Some nearly dragged the rod in, but were missed, but some tiny trembles produced roach over a pound!

Martin was still frustrated, but eventually the roach started to settle in his swim, along with the obligatory roach x rudd hybrid. Just as the sport was picking up, everything went dead. We couldn’t buy a bite.

We thought when the drain starts running off again that the sport would pick up, but it didn’t run off and the water level carried on rising. We called it a day and took our nets out for some photos. Martin had managed a reasonable net in the end, despite the bad luck, with some nice fish amongst them.

I was surprised when I lifted my net out, I’d got a few more fish than I realised. Most were roach a few ounces either side of a pound.

They had the most vivid colours, silver and red, with the shot of blue through their upper flanks. It had been a good day, but as we were tackling down the drain started flowing again, and the water level dropping. I had no doubt that it would now fish really well, but it was time to go home. I’m sure we’ll be back in the future. You can’t beat a good net of wild roach.

 

 

 

Predator Palputations

I haven’t really done very much pike fishing, especially in the last few years. In the freezing cold weather we’re having at the moment, I decided that old ‘Esox’ would be a viable target on my local rivers, drains and canals.

First up, I tried a couple of local rivers. A big fat blank first time out was followed by a chunky mid double on my next trip.

I then fished a local drain that holds good numbers of pike, including the odd really big fish. Sadly, my indicators and float didn’t move all day, but I saw other anglers land a few ‘jacks’ Still, it was a nice crisp day and the anticipation levels are always high.

The snow and rain that fell coloured the local drains and flowing water so I concentrated on a nearby canal. Again, this holds good numbers of pike, many into double figures, with the odd ‘lump’ for good measure.

I fished a few times on a couple of different stretches. I had several runs that I missed and several that I connected with. While these takes were happening, I realised that a pike run is arguably the best, most exciting moment in angling. It’s where the heart, or at least my heart, really starts pumping in anticipation. Will the fish drop the bait? Will I connect with the strike? Is it a PB, a ’20’+ or just a jack? All these thoughts seem to rush through my head, and I like to strike my bites really early! 5 seconds is the most I’ll wait to avoid any possibility of deep hooking.

My early fish were low doubles or high singles.

But after those first few fish, I only managed to make contact with small ‘jacks’ though some looked really pretty and like they could go on to be beasts in the future.

Time will tell whether I get round to fishing for pike again this season, or if I get that big girl or not. They spawn a lot earlier than most fish, and won’t be too far away from their annual mating regime. Whatever I do, I think I’ll be pike fishing a bit more often in the future.

 

 

 

Ups and Downs

It’s amazing how one short session can go just how you’d want it to, yet the next can be a total disaster. That’s what’s just happened over the last few days.

Firstly, my local rivers are in serious need of big rain. I’ve never seen them so low in my 45 years and I’m worried what will happen if that rain doesn’t come quickly. The odd fish can be seen in the crystal clear water, but some stretches seem devoid of fish. My beloved big roach have managed to ‘vanish’ but I know they’re very hard to see in winter. Their winter colours almost turn them into ‘ghosts’ even in the clearest of water, so I hatched a plan to try and winkle one, or hopefully more, into my net.

I went straight to the river after work, just as it was getting dark. I’d already prepared some mashed bread and had a loaf of fresh bread for my hook baits. I was going to quiver tip at night to see if any roach would come out to feed thinking it was safe. I’d already prepared my tackle the day before. I just needed to prime a few swims with the mashed bread, then fish them in rotation to hopefully earn my reward.

As I made my first cast (well, a lob just off of the rod end really!) I sat on my unhooking mat, waiting for magic to happen. I thought back to when I was just starting to fish in the early 80s, when I used to read about John Bailey and his exploits on those Norfolk rivers. He used to quiver tip for giant roach well into the night and I used to be almost there with him on the bank. As exciting as those tales were, they don’t prepare you for the feelings you get when you’re in the middle of nowhere at night. All of my senses were heightened, and I could hear my heart beating. I strained to see the white quiver tip, not just because of the dark, but through the stream coming from my mouth as the temperature plummeted. Then it happened, the tip lunged forward and started bouncing as a fish tried to make off with my bread.

As I lifted the rod all hell broke loose as a fish thrashed about on the surface. I didn’t turn my head torch on early because I didn’t want to possibly spook any remaining fish and also, I could be spotted from miles around by anyone in the area and I didn’t fancy any crackpots looking for me! Eventually, after one heck of a battle, my 3lb line did it’s job and I landed my prize, which turned out to be a great big trout!! What a surprise, and the first I’d heard of in this river!

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After that commotion I wasn’t expecting a roach, but I soon had another tap then a pull which resulted in another sizeable fish being hooked. This turned out to be a chub somewhere between 3 and 4lbs. At least I was catching, but after all that disturbance I went a few hundred yards downstream to another baited area.

This time when I cast in, my tip started bouncing as soon as I placed the rod in the rest, but I missed the bite. I cursed myself because this was one of my banker big roach swims, so I was watching the tip like a hawk on cast number two. This time there was a couple of rustles, then a pluck, then the tip dropped back so I swept the rod behind me and connected with something solid. The ‘thump thump’ being transmitted through the rod told me that this was probably a roach, and it felt a good one too. After around 30 seconds of holding the rod well out from the bank, hoping the hook holds and all those other horrible thoughts that come into your head when playing a big redfin, I slid a large bar of silver over the rim of my net.

As I lifted her up the bank, it felt a very good roach and this was confirmed when I parted the mesh to reveal a sparkling silver flank, tipped with bright red fins. I wondered whether it would threaten the ‘magic’ 2lbs mark, and I still do, because after rummaging around in my lightweight bag, I realised I’d forgotten my scales! Ah well, whatever the weight, it wouldn’t have been any more beautiful or given me more pleasure.

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I placed her in a net a few yards upstream of me while I tried for more of her shoal mates. The next cast produced a smaller sample, probably getting on for a pound, but the next fish was another lump of a roach. Unfortunately, this time, the hook pulled out. What a horrible feeling, and after 30 minutes or so with no more action, I headed for home both happy and frustrated.

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For my next trip I had an afternoon after predators. My first port of call was for a good pike that had been terrorising the local roach population. I couldn’t believe my luck when I turned up and it was easily visible, hovering at mid water quite close to the bank. A mackerel was soon drifted in front of it’s nose and this is where the fun started. For an hour we had this stand off where the pike would nose the bait, circle it, and then swim away, only to return and repeat the process when I twitched the bait. Eventually the trebles pulled free of the bait, and before I could cast back in, it had been eaten! The crafty so and so. I placed my fresh mackerel in the same spot, and thinking it was a free meal, this time the pike wolfed it down.

The strike set the hooks and a disappointing short scrap was soon over followed by me struggling to lift the net out of the water. It was obviously a good fish, a mid to upper double, but again, I shall never know exactly what it weighed. I unhooked the pike on the mat and folded the landing net mesh over it while I got the rod and trebles away from danger. At this point the pike did a big thrash, meaning the mesh was no longer covering it, then it did the biggest flip I’ve ever seen any fish do, which led to it slipping straight back into the water! I couldn’t believe it, after all that tomfoolery, to finally land it then lose it in such careless circumstances! I suppose it was the classic fishermans tale, the one that got away! At least it wasn’t a PB or a special fish. Lesson learned, and I cursed all the way to the next swim.

The next swim I visited held a shoal of resident perch, some definitely over 3lbs, up to possibly 4. Again, they were clearly visible and this added to my frustrations as they ignored every lure in the box. I ended up firing some casters into the swim, which really switched the perch on. I had a match rod with me so I float fished casters, but had to fish really fine to fool them into taking the bait. I hooked and landed one that weighed 2lbs 4oz, probably the smallest in the shoal.

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After this, the days frustrations grew as I hooked and lost 4 big perch, some after playing them almost to the net, only for the hooks to fall out later on in the fight. I checked my hooks to see if they were made of rubber, but in all honestly, light lines and small hooks are a recipe for disaster in the bony hard mouth of a big perch.

In desperation I put a larger hook on with 3 casters, but these fish weren’t going to be fooled by that old trick. As the light faded, I started digging at the bank with my bankstick and eventually turned over a small lobworm. I broke this in two and placed it on the hook. Within the minute I had another bite and was soon playing a stripey to the net with the larger hook staying in place this time!

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This fish had big shoulders and was very broad, meaning it was slightly heavier than the first perch at 2lbs 8oz. It looked like it could be a real lump a few years down the line.

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Seeing as the light had now gone, I called an end to the session. It had been a strange day, that’s for sure. I couldn’t work out whether it had been a good one or not!

2016, My Angling Year Summed Up

I said in my last annual review, a year ago, that 2016 would be a year of changes due to moving house and sorting a couple of rental properties out. I hoped for everything to be back to normal after a few months, then I could resume my nationwide fishing trips. Alas, here I am on January the 1st 2017 and I’m still a week or so from everything being sorted! The big plus is all my manual work has been finished and when I finally get some spare time to go fishing, I can go wherever I want.

The thing is it will take some real quality fishing to tempt me away from my local waters. 2016 was an eye opener as to what can be found on my doorstep. All of the fish I will post here were caught within 30 miles of my front door and most were caught less than 10 miles away. They may not be Drennan Cup winning specimens, but these are fish I could have only dreamed about in my locality 10 years ago.

My first decent fish of the year came from one of my local rivers trotting and link legering breadflake on a bitterly cold February day. A few good chub to over 4 and a half pounds warmed me up, but it was a fish I lost that had me excited.

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That fish was lost to a hook pull after a few seconds, but I could have sworn it was a big roach judging by the way it fought. I returned to the same swim a few days later, using maggots as bait this time. Light trotting tactics in the clearing water soon had me connected to a good roach which was safely landed after a nerve jangling scrap. It was 2lbs 2oz of pure winter perfection, one of natures jewels.

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Going into March and the rains came putting plenty of extra water in my rivers. I chose to fish for barbel and was rewarded with a cracking winter specimen of 13lbs 7oz to end the river season in style.

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In the river close season I fished on my local canals, though the perch fishing wasn’t as good as the previous year. I still managed fish to not far off the 3lbs mark, plus a few toothy pests, including one of 20lbs 15oz!

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I was now flat out working on ‘housey’ things straight after work which gave almost no time for fishing. I had one trip after tench to an Oxforshire gravel pit, which resulted in a jack pike, but I had to wait for the river season to open again to get back amongst the decent specimens.

Heavy June rains meant a logical target would be barbel and I was not to be disappointed. Plenty came to my rod on a small local river, including a cracker of 10lbs exactly. I thought this was as good as the barbel get on this river, only to take a photo for my mate Martin on the same day of a larger specimen!

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When the dry spell came and the rivers cleared, I sight fished for some cracking chub, the best being this 5lb+ specimen

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I also found a number of small shoals of fantastic roach. These weren’t the same fish that I’d caught the previous year, and they proved to be a real challenge to catch! I still managed to winkle some beauty’s out though, all came to trotted casters.

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As summer turned into Autumn, I tried for a good barbel and was rewarded with a near 13lb cracker. The lack of rains by now was making the rivers very low and clear and fish were tough to fool! Night fishing for barbel suited my busy schedule and they also seemed to lose their caution in darkness.

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While the rivers were so stale I turned my attention to still water bream and landed some cracking slabs. Many doubles graced my net with fish landed to almost 14lbs. I also managed a bonus male tench of 7lbs

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A few frosts saw me turn my attention back to the rivers again, which were painfully low and clear. The only plus side to this was that fish spotting was a lot easier, allowing my mate Martin and I to find a lot of specimen roach that we never had a clue about, plus we found a number of very good perch. We’re yet to target the ‘stripeys’ but accidentally caught them to just under 3lbs. We did see many larger fish though, so lets hope our paths cross before March the 14th!

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Some of the roach shoals Martin and I stumbled across were just fantastic. Some days I could catch more than 20 redfins that were well over a pound, though it was tough to sort the ‘2’s out in the shoal due to the numbers. Perseverance paid off though as Martin and I both got amongst fish over the ‘magical’ mark

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The back up fish were just as much fun to catch though!

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The best thing about finding all these local specimen roach is we’ve (Martin and I) got one shoal all to ourselves (or at least we think we have!) They’re well off the beaten track and are a long walk away from any roads. Then the roach are very hard to see in the deeper water while the banks are very overgrown and untouched. We’ve decided to keep this shoal for the future and have allowed ourselves one short session each until next season when we will have another go. We’ve both caught 2 pound fish from the shoal with plenty of back up fish over 1.8. Our future local roach fishing is looking good for the time being at least!

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I hope 2017 is just as kind to me on the local fishing front, with a few specimens added in on my travels!

May I just add tight lines to everyone who reads this blog and I hope you all have a great 2017!

 

Bits and Bobs

I’ve had very little time to fish throughout the last month or so and when I have got the rods out I think I’ve fished for the right species at the wrong time! Floods, sharp frosts, plus everything in between have hampered me, but I still managed to put a few fish on the bank.

In the flood I fished a slack area of a local river, hoping some big roach would be at home, but all I caught was a surprise chub plus a small roach. The chub was a surprise because I haven’t seen one on the stretch all year.

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A week or so later I had a fun time trotting for small roach and put a lovely net of fish together. There was an eye opener for me during the day though, a very large pike showed itself. I just need to try to locate her again in the future, but at the moment she’s hiding very well!

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Just before Christmas I had my first fishing trip down south in a long time. A kind invite from a good mate had me fishing a private stretch of the Hampshire Avon that rarely sees another angler. The list of fish caught recently, despite it hardly ever getting fished, is jaw dropping. Roach over 3lbs, dace over a pound, chub to just under 7lbs, huge pike and grayling are all in residence. It was more of a recce trip when I went, but the excitement was still there. The diversity of carriers and wire pools had me foaming at the mouth, but a freezing fog that lingered all day probably didn’t help the fishing.

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Because of the cold I had a go for a big dace, but the very low water level and crystal clear water meant they were very cautious. I soon had a few plump ‘darts’ though, up to a weighed 9oz. The best thing is as you’ll see in the photo, they were all scale and fin perfect. My mate had the largest, but with a number of pound plus fish to his name in the past, he never bothered weighing it! It looked a good 12oz to me.

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Later in the afternoon, I concentrated on fishing a pool where some giant roach live. Every time the tip ‘tweaked and banged’ as something showed an interest in my ‘flake’ offering, my pulse quickened, but the culprits were always average sized chub between 4 and 5lbs. Again, these were in fantastic condition.

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All too soon it was time to come home, but I can’t wait for a return visit! And that probably concludes my fishing for 2016 as work beckons until New Years Eve, which also happens to be my birthday! Have a great new year everybody and tight lines!

 

 

Making Short Sessions Count

It’s that time of year when not only are the nights really starting to pull in, but postmen also get really busy helping Father Christmas deliver all of his presents! Because of this I have to try and squeeze short after work sessions in on local waters, where I can, plus choose what to fish for on my day off, which conditions will often dictate.

First off I was exploring a small river for big roach. A different river to where I normally fish, but one where I’ve lost a big roach before. Unfortunately, we’d just had our first frost of the winter, so the fishing was slow. Trotted bread eventually brought me a few chub between 2 and 3lbs, but it was Martin who nearly stole the show. The big roach he’d hooked did what a lot of big roach do and slipped the hook at the net! We’ll return to try again though, I’m sure of that.

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Over the last week we’ve finally had a decent bit of rain up here. That meant for my next session I was racing to the Trent straight after work and when I arrived it seemed a few other anglers had thought along the same lines. The good news was that all had caught at least one barbel, so I was hoping for a pull or two!

Just as dusk was falling, my downstream rod banged over and I was playing barbel number one. It was quickly landed and might have weighed between 6-7lbs, but I never weigh these fish. The scales in the photo are just for reference. It was quite a plump fish and in prime Autumn condition.

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Just after this action the ‘Super Moon’ came out from behind the clouds. It was like fishing in daylight and I don’t think it was a coincidence that when it went back behind cloud cover my rod tip banged round again!

The culprit was the twin of the first fish, but straight after I was in again. This time the fish became snagged a few times, but by taking the bail arm off, I kept making contact again and eventually landed a ‘scraper’ double.

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I checked the line for damage and it was just the coated braid that had suffered with a bit of the coating rubbed off here and there. You have to fish tough tackle to fish the boulder strewn Trent. I’d have lost this fish on a standard mono or braided hooklink.

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The moon came out again and lit up the Trent Valley, it also lowered the temperature a lot. Just as I was thinking of calling it a night, I was in again, all four takes coming to the downstream rod. I could feel a grating sensation during the fight so I bullied the fish hard. This time though my luck ran out and the hooklink parted. It’s part and parcel of fishing here which is why I use running rigs and barbless hooks. A fixed rig is just irresponsible, but some anglers still fish like this!! Anyway, after the loss I made my way home.

The temperature had plunged when it came to my day off work, but I still ventured out after a big river pike. It was great fun watching the float, under which a deadbait sat, slowly move away and plunge under the surface a few times. The culprits were always hungry ‘jacks’ but it was good sport all the same, and you never know, the next fish could be a ’20’+!!

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After another bout of warm rain, I just had to see if it had stirred my local river roach into feeding. I shot to the river straight after work and it looked just right. There was a tinge of colour, but the light was failing quickly so it was quiver tipped bread instead of the usual trotted casters. I wasn’t to be disappointed as the tip yanked round on several occasions. The first fish was a new fish for me, a 2lb 1oz redfin, and it was backed up with a few more quality samples.

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The only negative was another lost big roach that would almost certainly given me a brace of ‘2’s

Incidentally, out of all the big roach I’ve caught from the river (11 over 2lbs I think!) and the many around 1.8+, I’ve only ever had 2 recaptures. One was a 2lb+ fish and the other around 1.6. It just shows what a great little river this is.

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Roach Magic and Barbel Blues

After last months bream sessions, I have now moved onto flowing water to try and catch some more of my favourite autumnal fish, barbel and roach. Both species can be caught to specimen sizes close to home so they fit into my working week nicely. If I go straight after work I can usually winkle out a big roach or two, and the same for barbel, though the latter suits me better because I can stay a couple of hours into darkness, probably the most productive time for a big fish.

The rivers I fish, and I suspect most others, are painfully low and clear as I write this and have been for some time. They are in desperate need of some sustained rainfall. The clarity means fish are very easy to spot, but they’ve become very nervous as we move into November. The weed they use for cover is dying off and they are using anything to conceal themselves, especially on the smaller rivers. A seemingly barren river can hold many surprises as fish tuck themselves away into the undercut banks or a tangle of tree roots.

Some of the big roach that I’ve previously caught from my local river are doing such a thing. After a couple of days where I couldn’t spot anything, suddenly half a dozen good fish drifted downstream, out of nowhere, right in front of where I was stood. Even better was most were around the 2lbs mark. As quickly as they came, they vanished again! I couldn’t find them so decided to move on for now and use the clear water to my advantage. I walked a lot of the river to see if any more good roach were about. I wasn’t disappointed.

I found a handful of new shoals which taught me a few good lessons about estimating their sizes. The first shoal I found had me believing I’d found the holy grail of roach, a big shoal of 2lb+ fish, with some looking very big. A quick early morning session seemed to prove my eyes were right, as I landed a couple of beauties well over a pound, with a chunky redfin of 2lbs 2oz topping off the morning. All fell to my trotted casters, they just can’t seem to get enough of them!

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The next day I returned to fish the swim hard. I fed a lot of casters and soon had loads of big roach queueing up for more. They weren’t hard to catch once I’d got them going, but the sizes were a shock. Most were around a pound, give or take a few ounces, but I thought they were all a lot larger. I was puzzled, but carried on catching numbers of good roach to 1lb 9oz, with a few more around the pound and a half mark.

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To start with, I was walking the roach 30 yards upstream before releasing them, but after doing this about 15 times I was getting tired, so I slipped the rest in a keepnet instead. The above photos were snapped on my mobile phone. I kept sending the pictures to Martin at work to tease him! I took so many photos of roach that the battery went flat!

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As I tackled down at dusk, I couldn’t believe how many big roach I’d landed in just a few hours after work. I also couldn’t help being slightly down that all the fish I’d estimated at around 2lbs were just over half of that size. Still, I shouldn’t be complaining in these tough times where if a river roach just reaches adulthood its an achievement.

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After all the roach fun I decided to try for a good barbel. I knew my normal boilie tactics would be hard work until nightfall due to the low clear water, so I tried the particle approach instead. After I had patiently fed a few pints of both hemp and casters into my swim over a couple of hours, I finally made my first cast. Gone were the 12b lines and coated braid hooklinks used in coloured water or at night. In their place was one rod, 8lb main line and a 6ft long, 5lb fluorocarbon bottom, tied to a size 14 hook. Bait was a couple of real casters and a couple of fake ones.

It didn’t take long for the rod tip to crash round, with a manic barbel of around 7 to 8lbs the culprit. I landed it reasonably quickly, despite the light gear, because the flow is almost non existent.

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This process was repeated a few times, including into dark, but none of the barbel were much larger. The best fish was an ounce under 10lbs. One thing what amuses me is how hard these smaller fish fight compared to the double figure fish. They go off like rockets, stripping line from the reels drag, unlike the larger fish that tend to sulk on the bottom before begrudgingly giving up.

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I reverted back to my boilie approach on my next trips, because I believe it singles out the larger barbel. Despite a couple of sessions well into dark, all I could muster was a net full of 5lb bream, plus a few chub, though one of these was more than welcome at 5lbs 9oz.

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The odd big fish is still getting caught though so I shall return, rain or no rain, but for now I decided to concentrate on the roach instead.

On my next roach trip I was joined by a mate. I wasn’t too bothered about fishing on this day because the weather was dire. It was chilly and throwing it down. We went to a new swim where I’d recently spotted some roach and chub. I snuck downstream and saw a few roach, with a couple of belters amongst them. They were very hard to see in the gloomy light though. My mate trotted the swim manfully, despite the dire conditions, and was rewarded with a 4lb+ chub and a chunky roach of around 12oz. A  small pike had launched itself at this roach, but let go, allowing it to be quickly landed.

When the weather was at its worst my mate had had enough, allowing me to take over. It was a bad error as I soon swung in a small roach, which the pike jumped out of the water for! It was certainly a bad tempered or very hungry pike, which was confirmed when I struck into my next fish. I could tell it was a big roach, but knowing the angry ‘esox’ was around, I cranked it quickly to the bank, where I shouted at my mate to quickly land it for me, which he did in the nick of time. The pike had almost stolen my prize in the commotion, a few missing scales being the only damage thankfully.

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The scales gave a weight of 1lb 13oz, not quite a ‘2’ but at least it would get the chance to grow on and possibly attain the ‘special mark’

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The next trip was to a completely new area, and obviously another shoal of good sized roach. Initially I had been fooled. Martin and I saw this shoal on one of our walks and he asked me to check them out when the light was better. This I did, getting them taking my casters freely, but I wrote the sizes off at being around 12oz at the best. I realised I’d cocked up big time when Martin rang me one morning to tell me about his catch of good roach, topped off by a couple of low ‘2’s, from that very swim!!! A few days later, at my first available opportunity, I was in the same swim, landing my own silver bullion with the best two fish of the morning going 2lbs and 1lb 10oz The ‘2’ had certainly been in the wars, but seemed fit and healthy.

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In this catch was another half a dozen roach all between 1.4 and 1.8, plus a number of smaller fish from an ounce upwards, so hopefully there are plenty of roach to be going at for the next couple of seasons.

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I walked the same area the next week, wondering how I could have misjudged the sizes so much. What I saw blew me away. This time I approached on the opposite bank to the one I fished. The roach looked very big, in fact there were a lot of big roach, so many that I have to return soon! To confirm my thoughts, I walked miles so that I could look at the roach from the opposite bank, where this time they again looked 12oz at best! The only thing I can put this down to is that if you’re almost level with the water, the light is bent and makes the fish look smaller, but if you’re on a higher bank, this doesn’t happen as much and the fish look nearer to their true size. That’s what probably confused me with the other shoal where they looked bigger than they were. I suppose the moral is don’t judge the size of any fish you spot, at least until you’ve caught a few!

The only downside to this great roach fishing is the loss of the odd big girl. Tiny hooks and light lines means playing a big redfin in flowing water will always be a nail biting affair and this was proven on the 31st of October. I’d singled out three very large roach in the bright autumn sunshine and managed to get the two I wanted most to take my bait. The first was lost after playing it for 30 seconds or so, without ever getting it close in. The second fish came off after just a few seconds. I don’t know how big they were, both of which would have given me a clear picture of the rivers potential for roach, size wise. As Martin said to me later “You’ve had a nightmare on Halloween” It still hurts, but I try to focus on the good times!

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